J. A. Kerley- The Death Box

jkCarson Ryder thought he’d seen everything. A specialist in twisted crimes, Detective Carson Ryder thought he’d seen the lowest depths of human depravity. But he’s barely started his new job in Miami when called to a horrific scene: a concrete pillar built of human remains, their agony forever frozen in stone. Finding the secret of the pillar drags him into the sordid world of human trafficking, where one terrified girl holds the key to unraveling a web of pain, prostitution and murder. There’s just one problem: Ryder’s not the only one chasing the girl. And the others will kill to keep the secret safe.

I’m currently relishing catching up with this series, after somehow overlooking the last two releases- The Memory Killer (published in June) is next on the list. In a change of direction, Detective Carson Ryder has upped sticks and moved from the sultry climes of his native Mobile in Alabama to Miami, as part of the team of consulting specialists at the Florida Centre for Law Enforcement. His reputation as a man in tune with the mental processes of the most dark and depraved criminal minds, has paved the way for his inclusion in this new team, leaving behind some of the stalwart characters of the series to date. As Ryder navigates his way in his new home (a temporary palatial beach side residence appropriated from an incarcerated crime lord), a new job, and a fairly unwelcoming team of detectives overseen by a scheming and slippery boss, Roy McDermott, the scene is set for a whole new chapter in Ryder’s life. However, I was delighted to discover that Ryder’s escaped psychotic brother Jeremy makes a welcome appearance, to aid the continuity of the sharp change in direction of the series…

What I love about Kerley’s writing is the instant shock factor that unerringly drives his books. The opening to this one is particularly harrowing, with a container full of illegal immigrants arriving in Miami, with the majority of them dead, or close to death. As the plot progresses, Kerley provides an insight into the horrific nature of human trafficking and the awful fate that awaits them (in particular the women) as the overseers of this lucrative business, treat them no better than chattels to be exploited and used. The discovery of the concrete pillar of human remains is particularly poignant and unsettling, and immediately appeals to the crusading and humane nature of Ryder, to identify this people and bring their killers to justice. As Ryder pursues the traffickers, and a young girl who has escaped their clutches, what follows is a violent and breathless thriller, that will shock and delight in equal measure. The plot is well executed, as Kerley has an innate skill at controlling the pace and measure of his storylines, and I found this difficult to put down, despite the sometimes more graphic and disturbing elements of the narrative, but what I think Kerley has achieved most successfully is the intergration of Ryder into a new team and locale.

The character of Ryder is pretty much played to form as a bit of a loner with a strong moral core, and not afraid to kick some butts when the occasion arises. I like the moral integrity he displays, and although I’m entirely familiar with him as a character, I enjoy the sense of familiarity that each book brings. In most crime thrillers, a main character is only as successful as those that surround him, and although this book lacks the larger life sidekick of Harry Nautilus (from the Alabama based books) Kerley has quickly established a strong base to work from, and Ryder’s new youthful partner Ziggy Gershwin may come to fill Harry’s big shoes!  Ryder’s new boss Roy McDermott is a somewhat Machievellian character despite his outwardly cheerful disposition and the team of detectives, that are initially so suspicious of Ryder, certainly have room for development individually. I also liked the prickly and focused Chief Forensic Examiner, Vivian Morningstar, who delivers her barbed asides like an evil Cupid. As I said previously, Ryder’s errant brother Jeremy also makes an appearance to keep us grounded in the previous series, so all in all this a welcome conglomeration of old and new. A good read once again from Kerley and can’t wait to get started on The Memory Killer…

Jack Kerley spent years as an advertising agency writer and producer before his wife demanded he quit work and write a novel, which he thought a fine idea. The result was The Hundredth Man, the first in the Carson Ryder series. An avid angler, canoeist and hiker, Kerley has travelled extensively throughout the South, especially coastal regions such as Mobile, Alabama, the setting for many of his novels, and the Florida Keys. He has a cabin in the Kentucky mountains, which appeared as a setting in Buried Alive. He lives in Newport, Kentucky, where he enjoys sitting on the levee and watching the barges rumble up and down the Ohio River. Visit his website www.jackkerley.com

(I bought this copy of The Death Box)



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